Anime Escapism, or why my depressed ass watched so many Japanese cartoons

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually sat down and watched any anime. My anime-viewing habits are pretty fickle. I either binge watch ten series all the way through in a month, or I don’t watch anything other than snippets of whatever shounen my boyfriend’s watching in the living room.

Maybe it was a bit foolish to start a whole anime blog based on such a spotty interest. It’s not that I like anime any LESS during my dry spells…it’s just that I really only gravitate towards anime when I’m in need for some hardcore escapism.

Image result for anime escape
That’s me, escaping my problems

You see, anime is usually my go-to during depressive episodes. During those times, I would have a hard time actually getting anything done. Homework, chores, socializing – they were all neglected in favor of depression naps and anime binges. Depression naps just led to more depression, but anime watching would give me at least SOME sense of joy. I would get a weird sense of accomplishment from setting stuff to COMPLETE on MyAnimeList. Watching anime is pretty passive, and realistically anyone can sit down in front of a monitor for eight hours straight, but if I finished a series in a day, I at least felt like I DID something.

Plus, there’s the obvious distraction factor. Movies can only keep you occupied for ninety minutes or so, but a big old anime franchise can keep your intrusive thoughts at bay for DAYS if you play your cards right. Shout out to all the 100+ episode shounens and magical girl series out there…who needs therapy when I can just watch Cardcaptor Sakura for two weeks?

cardcaptor sakura
Thanks for always being there for me, giiiiiiiiirl

Slice-of-life anime made for peak escapism, too. I watched A LOT of iyashikei-style shows in my darkest hours. Feel-good shows would obviously lift my spirits, even the tiniest bit. I’ve never been the type to drown my sorrows in sad music or anything like that – I’d much rather surround myself with saccharine idol shows. No joke, a hyperfixation on LoveLive! helped push a lot of suicidal thoughts away.

In my earlier, closeted days, anime would even help me feel better about being my bi self. I’ve written about this before in relation Lucky Star – it meant a lot to be able to see lesbian relationships shown in a way that didn’t feel sleezy or oversexed. I had a lot of self-loathing because I thought liking girls was ~*evil*~, so seeing anime girls wholesomely crushing on other anime girls made me feel much better. Of course, looking back on some of this stuff now, I realize that a lot of these things were steeped in “it’s just a phase” stereotypes, but at the time that didn’t matter.

yuru yuri
Yuru Yuri saved my life

Which brings me to now. I’m still looking for pieces of myself in media, but I’m not looking for the same things that I used to. I don’t want easy feel-good stuff, and now that I’ve actually delved into queer theory junk (because I’m a big gay dork), I don’t really find the same kind of solace in the oft-problematic yuri/slice-of-life franchises. Instead, I’ve been looking for escapism in horror movies instead. Good horror will tackle mental health issues in subversive, interesting ways – and I’m at a point in my life where I want to confront my Bad Brain issues, not run away from them.

On top of that, having a full-time job makes it a lot harder to binge-watch entire anime series. It’s a bit too hard to follow along with each new anime season like I used to, too. My time feels so limited that I don’t want to waste it on things that I’m just watching because it’s new, you know? Now, movies are just a lot more digestible. These days, 90 minutes of distraction is all I have time for!

I still love the anime I love, but my love and needs from the medium have changed. I’m a little less depressed and a little more busy. But I’ll always love it for being there when I needed it. And you know I’m always going to return to Cowboy Bebop for some nostalgia fixes.

15 thoughts on “Anime Escapism, or why my depressed ass watched so many Japanese cartoons

  1. Man, I feel for you so much. I’ve been struggling to get stuff on my blog that I resort to word vomit on certain days. I repost a lot more than I care to admit. A fulltime job just leaves me with no energy to actually do the things I used to enjoy doing all the time because I feel like I won’t be able to give it the time or respect it deserves. It took me so long to actually sit down and watch AoT S2 because I didn’t like the idea of stopping halfway through.

    I don’t even watch much anime these days. I just read a lot of manga for my slice of life/shounen fix, and even THAT has been reduced to mostly romcom/slice of life fluff because I feel lazy catching up to half an action scene every week.

    In any case, I’ve only been at this job for six months but it HAS enabled me to be more supportive of anime I love. When KyoAni burned down, even though what I donated was super small, I felt amazed I could even donate at all.

    It’s a weird thing being an adult.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, that’s the funny thing – you have the money to support the artists you love, but less brain capacity available to ENJOY the things you love. I’m hoping it’ll all even out for the both of us so that we can time manage our brains better

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree! I watch Robotech whenever I’m down because it works better than Ambien. The sleep factor helps, and it also puts things into perspective. Things could always be worse! Being stuck on the outskirts of the solar system with the most irritating singer who won’t shut up is much, much worse.
    P.S. that newer Kengan Ashura show on Netflix is stupid good.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. YESS, since they added Robotech on Netflix, I’ll fall asleep to that or InuYasha. it reminds me of when I was a teen and used to fall asleep to [adult swim] anime. InuYasha has the same “this could be much worse, you could be stuck with a dog man who won’t shut up” vibes lol

      also I gotta check that out, I watched the first season of Baki on Netflix recently and it was SO FUN

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Depression is hard to deal with, especially because it takes away your motivation. I had a very similar experience to yours when I was depressed my senior year of high school. Anime was pretty much the only thing that kept my attention. I still need to finish Bebop though. aaaaaahhh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. yesss, my senior year of hs and freshmen year of college were my biggest anime binge periods just because of the stress/depressive episodes associated with big transition periods. also, may you finish Bebop soon…I love it so much that I’ve probably watched it through enough times for the both of us lolol

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That was an insightful post. I still struggle with self-esteem issues and realizing how much media affected me for the better or worse caused me to rethink my watching habits. It’s part of the reason why I’m doing this Representation Matters series on my main blog. I still watch anime, don’t get me wrong. I just feel like I need to be healthier in what I consume when it comes to various stories. I hope you’ve felt better since posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh yes, I hard relate. there are a lot of series that pop up with yuri-bait that I would have eaten up in high school, but now I can’t really stomach it – I like, can’t just settle for the bare minimum anymore, you know?? and becoming more aware of the shitty ways that certain anime treat female characters has curbed some of my usual watching habits too lol

      I have been feeling better, thank you ❤ busy but doing okay lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure thing and thanks for relating. I can understand some of your feelings when certain types of characters get mistreated. I was aware with some things even a few years ago, but I’ve become even more aware when it comes to numerous shows, movies, books, etc.

        That’s great, Jenn. I’m certainly busy, but doing alright to the best of my abilities.

        Liked by 1 person

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